Corrupt ex-cop leaves road users at risk

By Louisa Cleave

A former policeman who issued dozens of driver licences in exchange for cash was told by a judge he may have put the community at risk from the drivers he did not test.

Peter William Hjorring, 57, was yesterday sentenced to 280 hours' community work for his role in the scam.

Hjorring told police he had issued three to four untested licences a week over an eight-month period before he was caught in March, making a total of more than 100.

But his lawyer, Harry Jordaan, told the Waitakere District Court that Hjorring now believed he had issued just eight to 10 licences in total.

Hjorring received $50 for each licence issued and police said he pocketed between $4800 and $6400 altogether.

Judge Philip Recordon said the exact number of licences might never be known. He could not help but wonder about the people who were driving and should not be, "and the risks they may cause to the community".

Hjorring was based at the AA Express centre in Westgate but employed by a private firm, NZ Driver Licensing, which runs practical road tests for Land Transport New Zealand.

Many people found out about the licences through advertisements in foreign-language newspapers.

Hjorring was arrested one day after Land Transport called in police to help with an inquiry into the scam.

A Chinese instructor also charged in connection with the inquiry is currently before the courts.

Judge Recordon said Hjorring came "very close" to a period of imprisonment. But he was a first offender and had worked with the police inquiry.

Outside the court, Detective Sergeant Murray Free said a number of people who received the licences were in the country on student visas. 

Mr Free said the police investigation covered a period "going back over several years" and the information suggested people at other centres were involved.

Land Transport NZ spokesman Andy Knackstedt said Hjorring had issued almost 1000 licences in the job and of those about 100 people had not been tested.

LTNZ was in the process of translating and sending letters to those people.

"There is no question that there are some people driving around as a result of Mr Hjorring's actions with licences that they haven't earned.

"Our focus now is on tracking down those people and making sure they ... sit an on-road test, and if they don't pass that test then they're not going to be driving."

Mr Knackstedt said it was possible other people were in the scam, but since it was exposed by television current affairs programme Campbell Live, those people had probably "stopped doing it".

He said LTNZ had reviewed its procedures to make it difficult for an individual testing applicant to be matched up with a specific testing officer. One change was more random work schedules, meaning officers were switched between locations more often.

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